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Protecting streams, promoting justice


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If Governor Cuomo adds his signature, the NYS Legislature’s vote to extend much-needed protections to Class C streams can have far-reaching effects.

In a single image, this map illustrates why the New York State Legislature’s recent vote to extend protections to “Class C” streams in NYS is such a big deal.

This is the watershed for Watervliet Reservoir, sole or primary source of water for more than 37,000 people in the City of Watervliet and Town of Guilderland. If Governor Cuomo signs the protections into law, you would now at least need a DEC permit before you disturb any of the many streams – color coded here in green – that feed the reservoir.

The previous LACK of protection is stunning, and the protections to come obviously necessary.

Drinking water source protection is an environmental justice issue. Those downstream drinking the water are often reliant on the land-use decisions of those living upstream, who are often wealthier, whiter and often benefiting from housing, mortgage and zoning policies that had racist intent and/or impact. Protecting Class C streams in these cases will promote environmental justice by improving protections that downstream communities need.

The map image is from Capital District Regional Planning Commission’s 2003 report on protecting the reservoir, which is being updated as part of the new state Drinking Water Source Protection Program. Riverkeeper played a role in catalyzing the state program’s creation, and we’re eager to see it roll out fully soon.